This comprehensive account of the past, present and future of the automobile examines the key trends, key technologies and key players involved in the race to develop clean, environmentally friendly vehicles that are affordable and that do not compromise on safety or design. Undertaking a rigorous interrogation of our global dependency on oil, the author demonstrates just how unwise and unnecessary this is in light of current developments such as the fuel cell revolution and the increasing viability of hybrid cars, which use both petrol and electricity - innovations that could signal a new era of clean, sustainable energy. The arguments put forward draw on support from an eclectic range of sources - including industry insiders, scientists, economists and environmentalists - to make for an enlightening read.
Despite Motavalli's position as editor of E: The Environmental Magazine, this is not a polemic describing the horrors of gasoline-powered cars. To be sure, Motavalli is firmly in favor of moving toward more fuel-efficient, less-polluting autos, but he is pragmatic enough to realize that such a change is not going to occur at the snap of some environmentalist's fingers. In his cogently written, well-researched account, Motavalli argues that market forces are ushering the U.S. into a clean-car era. Improvements in technology involving batteries and fuel cells, along with global warming, dwindling oil reserves and government mandates such as that of California's Air Resources Board, which calls for 10% of an automaker's fleet to be zero-emission by 2003, are all merging to create a market for electronic cars. But the most important factor driving increased domestic research into non-internal combustion engines (hybrid cars that combine gasoline with alternative power sources as well as hydrogen-propelled cars) is the fear that Detroit could be blindsided by the introduction of clean cars by foreign manufacturers, which American car makers believe could do the same damage to their market share as Toyota and Honda did when they began selling fuel-efficient autos a few decades ago. While Motavalli addresses environmental issues, his straightforward account is more likely to appeal to car enthusiasts who want the inside track on the status of electronic vehicles.